Our tantalizing cover photo surely got your blood pumping, but wait until you break the digital spine. The vignettes within shall slake a thirst you didn’t even know you had. From short, yet riveting, poems such as Manda Frederick’s On Icicles, guaranteed to claw us from the depths of a brutal winter, to poems of short-lived tropical days in spring, prepare yourselves for writing and artwork both portentous and of staggering brilliance. Almost prescient in nature, this is a promise to not disappoint.
Cover Photograph Art & Photography
by Ellen Wade Beals
Meeah Williams ~ pp. 5, 14, 39 Gilmore Tamny ~ pp. 7, 15, 27, 37 Vic Cavalli ~ pp. 9, 11, 35
Featured Authors Christine Danek ~ pg. 6 Glass The Oak Tree
Alyssa Cooper ~ pp. 7, 37 Psyche Earthquakes Night Time
Kyle Hemmings ~ pg. 16
Mutant Mannequin Envy: The World Falls Off My Personal Line Don’t Break This Heart Models Of Salvation Come In All Sizes
Ray Scanlon ~ pg. 18 Heading To Dover Family
On Icicles by Manda Frederick ~ pg. 3 There is Danger Everywhere by Kevin Tosca ~ pg. 4 Ithaca by Benjamin Schachtman ~ pg. 8 Aeva-Maria Berg by Matthieu Baumier ~ pg. 10 Percussion by Andrew Merton ~ pg. 11 Ephemera by Sarah Lyn Rogers ~ pg. 12 My Father by Gleah Powers ~ pg. 15 Sign Off: 1984 by Nels Hanson ~ pg. 17 Chamber Music by Howard Winn ~ pg. 20 The Man With One Leg by Doug D’Elia ~ pg. 21 Bad Men by Riccardo Savini ~ pg. 21 Ambrosia by Jodi Cleghorn ~ pg. 23 Elihu’s Meditation on Questions Unanswered by Adam Byatt ~ pg. 23 Bratislava by Vance Mikin-Laurie ~ pg. 26 Vertebrate by Karl Jensen ~ pg. 26
Clinton Van Inman ~ pg. 13 Taly Oehler ~ pg. 18 Sam Harris ~ pp. 19, 30 Linda G. Hatton ~ pp. 22, 32, 42 Janne Karlsson ~ pp. 24, 25, 44 Barry W. North ~ pg. 21 Star Look, Honey
Emily Rose Cole ~ pg. 29 I Am In Love With Doubt In Praise Of Failure
Julie Briggs ~ pg. 31 Jacaranda Streets The Frame Crush
Scott May ~ pp. 9, 35 Still Moving Running
Leila A. Fortier ~ pp. 28, 40 The Womb Scarlet
Elephant in the Room by Ellen Webre ~ pg. 27 And Eros Shrugs by Morgan Nikola-Wren ~ pg. 33 Total Immersion by Sherry Chandler ~ pg. 33 Fes Medina by Ciaran Ward ~ pg. 33 Not Where He Expected by Tom Irish ~ pg. 34 Hiding Places by Deborah Guzzi ~ pg. 36 Apart Together by Abbey Barney ~ pg. 36 Deathbed by Marcelina Vizcarra ~ pg. 36 Binge, Circa 1881 by Nancy Stone ~ pg. 38 Gone by Alex Sons ~ pg. 38 Anya by Colleen M. Farrelly ~ pg. 40 Interlude by Jacob Riyeff ~ pg. 41 Abandoned by Susan Carter Morgan ~ pg. 42 Under You Over The Bridge by Daniel W. Thompson ~ pg. 43
Manda Frederick There is no reason
for their shape; they are a marvel of melting and freezing, ice-locked water thirsty for its own movement, seeking borders that exist only in transition.
THERE IS DANGER EVERYWHERE
own and rub and swirl, feel its warmth or its lack, its wet or its dry, its hard or its soft. I wanted interaction and response, but I’ve always wanted too much.
Though however agreeable and relaxing that compromise could be, however much it could turn one or both of us on, it could also startle and upset and raise an unnecessary vigilance for the rest of the five-hour trip while vaulting me into another glorious hole of guilt and shame. So many triggers exist that can never be pulled.
Can I simply touch your hand?
She put her hand above the seat in front of me, rested it there like a pale flower—bloomed. I couldn’t see any other part of her, just those fingernails, white and smooth, and the fingers slim and delicate and curved, and the pink tips that, in a gesture of insouciance or boredom, rubbed together, one after another—tip to tip to tip to tip—slow and cyclical, her thumb the And as if to tighten the truth of this vice, the train entered a tunnel. The lack of light said fulcrum of unconscious regularity. go for it, yes, live, seize, risk—now—don’t be a child, you’re only here once, die having done Do I dare? I thought. something, but we just as quickly emerged The back of the seat was burgundy with into day and her hand (as if warned) disapnarrow grey diagonal lines. Someone, some- peared. I took a deep breath, I thought I was where, had believed those colours and this safe, but then, in the gap between window and design could please (or at least not offend) seat, she put one hand into the other and eased everyone. The middle-aged man next to me her head onto them. ate a ham and Camembert sandwich, the buds in his ears emitting a fast, dark, heavy, and All I could see were the shimmering strands American sound. An older, chatty woman of brown falling into those prayer-pressed across the aisle to our right was either making fingers, but it was too much—that casualness! a new friend or passing time the best way she that proximity! that intimacy!—so I forced knew how. Neither seemed concerned about myself to stare out the window, and what the impossibility of universal satisfaction, or I saw was the grass and the limbs and the leaves swaying as we zoomed by, lit so gaily, about this hand. so naturally, and I became so jealous of the sun and wind touching everything at will that Can I caress your hand? I thought. I reached up and slammed the shade down. Caress is perhaps too strong a word, yet exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to start Then I did the only thing I could think to do: at tip and slide toward knuckle, swoop up I closed my eyes, not daring to see if the man neighbouring finger and slide slowly down next to me raised one of his fascinatingly wild again. I wanted to cover that hand with my and bushy eyebrows or not. 4
Meeah Williams 5
chris dantine ek
I scrape my fingertip along its rough edge. A shard of stolen love—embedded in my chest, I trace my finger over the bone of my breast. A bead of blood balloons above my skin slides to the edge A drip of life, I didn’t know I had. He steps close, his warmth coats my worry—unsure I fumble and trip on all my failures as alley shadows blanket my escape. His touch hitches my stride I stand, frozen, tears fall afraid another fragment will disappear. A door etches into the ice it shatters open, tiny pieces connect a glass heart forms, a black strip tears down the middle. My knees crumble, he clutches my hand The glass within departs, fills the gap— his love no longer stolen. 6
THE OAK TREE The leaves are weightless free of chains that bind—the ground an untouched blanket of white. Unlike my face, as ridged as bark, no scars or bruises taint its surface A man in a black coat waits —an ink stain on a bed sheet. I smell his footprints again But the more I reach for him, the more his presence is just another blemish in the snow.
Staring not at a lack of colour, but a profuseness of it; so many colours that the beams of light they fire into your eyes are blinding you, blinding you to the red in her cheeks and the amber in her iris. Until the yellow curl of her hair and her green painted fingernails are grey, grey and fading into black. Black like night, and you are blind. But her hands are there. And her mouth. Your other senses paint a picture, as she heaves with hot, damp breath, and her heavy blond curtain falls across your face. She is as real as she ever was, your elegant, feline Eros; caressing your eyelids with soft, cold fingertips, and demanding nothing more than complete and utter submission; nothing more than obedience. And like soft-bodied Psyche, you are euphoric in the darkness, dancing in delight at the paths she makes across your skin. You bask in the sightlessness, drawing her hand across your eyes in devotion. Loyal and adoring, you give thanks for the blindness.
EARTHQUAKES You are an earthquake, sending my world crashing around the fault lines. Lost in a haze of idolization and adoration, I cower in doorways, under arches and stairwells, as if the strength of this old architecture could ever save me from you. I am swept away, overwhelmed; liberated from my balance, and thrown against the walls in the tremors youâ€™ve created. I bruise my limbs and bash my skull as I cling to you and your dangerous shift. I bite my tongue with sharpened teeth, and come to find that your touch has left my blood as sweet as honey.
Where was she? The tail end of I-40, southbound.
What is her relationship to this town? That of a mermaid to the sea.
What was she driving? 1965 Ford Mustang.
What part of the aforementioned song was playing? The best part.
What colour? Cerulean Blue. Custom.
What was she in a previous life? Drunkard. Guitarist. Sailor. Conquistador.
Whose car was it? Hers. Who else was in the car? Beowulf. Eighty-eight pound mutt, part Lab, part Husky, part reincarnation of Johnny Cash. Friends call him the beer wolf. Strangers are terrified of the dog. It’s the eyes. But no gentler thing ever rode shotgun with her. And? A boy. A ship in the night. Sits in the back. How was the weather? Warm, night sublimating, red on the horizon. Everyone take warning. What was on the radio? A long, long southern rock song. You know which one. Where was she going? First, to the beach. Then? To a place on the way back into town, home of the meanest burritos this end of I-40. And finally? When it opened, to a dive, south side of downtown. It’s Sunday, they’ll be open at noon. At what point will she drop the boy off ? After the burrito, before the bar. At what point, exactly, will she tell the boy she’s dropping him off ? After the burrito is paid for, before she gets back in the car.
But what was she like? Cruel. Sweet. Funny. What came on the radio next? A local band’s screaming mess of noise. What was her reaction to hearing the song, initially? She changed her mind about where she was going to drop the boy off. And the new location? The side of the road at the nearest stop light. And her parting words? “You owe me for gas.” And did he pay? He did. And would he have done it again, all over again? Several times over and over again. And did he see what she pulled from the inside breast pocket of her leather jacket, and held in front of the radio for a moment, before dropping her hand to the gear shift? A faded Polaroid of a rock and roll band playing on a tiny, cluttered stage. Did he at least catch her name? She said it was America, but that was a joke. But when he writes about it, that’ll be the name he gives her.
What will Beowulf eat? A burrito, two ramekins of peach salsa, and half of a PBR tallboy.
And would he ever understand why she spun out before the light even changed, the banshee scream of melting tyres barely masking what sounded like the saddest, strangest cry any human being has ever uttered, followed by the long fading howl of a wild dog, a burnt black cloud of smoke slowing erasing her, the dog and the car from view but never, ever for the rest of his life from memory?
And her? The same.
STILL MOVING by
Everything Moving— Reminds me of you Still—
À EVA-MARIA BERG English version translated by Elizabeth Brunazzi
Je suis né dans un pays de neiges et de cendres
I was born in a country of snow and ashes
Pays où l’on n’arrive Jamais.
A country where one never arrives.
Et que jamais, on ne quitte ni ne connaît Pays d’où personne ne vient, où le soleil croît en larmes de cendres, débris de neiges noircies et d’âmes englouties dans l’étincelle des silences enfuis
And one never leaves, never knows, A country where no one comes, where the sun distills tears of ash the debris of blackened snow and souls swallowed up in the sparks of retreating silences
Je suis né – ici, ainsi que naît la peur.
I was born—here, just as fear is born.
One day in 1956 four of us were up in the tree house in my back yard, trying to make animal noises, except for Big Lenny, who said the word roar instead of roaring. This was just before he leaned back against a wall that wasnâ€™t there. I thought about the sound he made when he hit the groundâ€” thud was wrong, there was no t-h. My second thought was that Big Lenny was dead, but after a minute he rolled over, stood up, shook himself like a wet dog, groaned a real groan, and went on to become a drummer. 11
Sarah Lyn Rogers
I could hear it again. Always in the low, quiet hours of the night it comes—a faint whine carried by the wind. I’d been dreaming an orchestra of bendy straws, emitting their eerie whistles. My eyes opened but the score continued, colored by the rotting eucalyptus smell of nearby Milpitas. What was it? I’d tried to solve the mystery of the sound before, but I always gave up too easily. Tonight it sounded like haunted swing sets. The house was on fire today. My dad lost his job— another one—on the hottest day of the year, and the scene between him and Mom in the living room was a war zone for hours. They both agreed that it was too hot to bicker about money anymore, that it was too hot to do much of anything but try to sleep the heat away. I was cocooned in my room, alternately ignoring and listening in on their conversation, wishing I had anywhere to go. All of my friends have moved already for college, leaving me here in the valley, trapped in this sweltering house with my parents and their boiling blood. When their lights went out, part of me wanted to pad down the hall and meander into the night, to drift like mist. I didn’t know what the rest of me wanted, so I rolled over and summoned sleep. The noise, infiltrating my dreams, pulled me back into the hot night. I wanted to find the source of it this time instead of forever playing the guessing game. I gave myself a quest, got dressed, and tiptoed through the front door, closing it quietly behind me. The moon was full, casting its blue-white glow on my street. The outside air was not much cooler than the convection oven of my room, but at least I wasn’t boxed in. I angled an ear toward the noise and silently stalked down my suburban street. I’ll never understand why so many people leave their front windows and curtains open, inviting strangers to look in on their home lives. I’ll never understand a lot of things. I passed a man asleep on the couch in his front room in the grey, flickering light of his television. I wondered if he had a wife. Maybe he was in trouble for the night and got kicked out of their bedroom. Maybe he always fell asleep out there
first, and crawled into bed with her later. Maybe he lived alone. An upstairs light was on in a different house, but I couldn’t see anyone through the window. Who else was awake at four? And why? Working on a project? Reading? Roasting in her house and wishing to be outside and not having even the flimsiest of reasons? The light stayed on. I continued toward the sound. A car rounded the corner and illuminated me in a flash with its headlights before driving on, making my heart pound. It was stupid to be out, alone, for no reason. I worried that I should turn back. The sound was clearer as I neared the edge of the neighborhood and approached the busier streets of businesses. I had to cross at the crosswalk, displaying my wandering self to the cars lined up at the stoplight. The quest had seemed romantic and important in my head, but seemed dumb and dangerous now that other people could observe me. I felt so vulnerable, but the sound seemed close to solving now, and it seemed more stupid to turn back and have made myself brave the night and the menacing glare of headlights for nothing. I passed the police station, thinking that at least someone could help if something happened. If I screamed loud enough. And then I saw the train yard. The sound grew even louder as my steps quickened toward the end of the line, where the tracks were being tested, switching from one path to the other. The metal was straining in protest, squealing that metallic whistle, a sound that had had no face before. I thought this must be the early morning ritual before the riders would come in a few hours, oblivious to the magic in repetitive, unobserved tasks. I was satisfied. After watching for a spell, I walked home again, past the drivers in their cars who had just as little reason to be out as I had, past the window light which was out now, past the sleeping husband/widower/divorcee, whoever he was. The black of night was fading to a purple grey as I slipped back inside my oven house, with my sleeping parents, who were cool and calm for now.
Clinton Van Inman
Art by 14
Gilmore Tamny MY FATHER by
I remember the scent of my father, the smoke from his cigarettes embedded in the leather band of his Timex watch, the smell of morphine and cancer as he died at the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois. I was thinking of the soul. That methane star snowflake pelting down from the cosmos, landing in Chicago on a muggy day in June.
s g n i e m l y m e KH MUTANT MANNEQUIN ENVY: THE WORLD FALLS OFF MY PERSONAL ASSEMBLY LINE I live on junk food that drips onto my lap and three-minute iTunes. During traffic jams, I quiver and become someone else. I eat my own rage. Or be as pure as a catcall. At the fashion institute, I write C code for shockproof mannequins. Each day, I measure their girth, their height. I fudge measurements and believe in true re-animation. In a parallel world, we would be viewed as an insane history of movement that results in a final stillness. What this might translate into is that a mannequin knows every one of our built-in glitches. The office girls think that’s as funny as a crutch. I program the mannequins to talk, to simulate opening their legs to birth a new world or to witness the sex positions I only perform with double-jointed sales girls. At my apartment, a Katy Perry clone with brute Elvis envy is singing a reusable song in the shower. Later, I ask her to please flush the toilet. She says she didn’t use it and what was that tasteless joke about dirty tampons? She slaps me, leaving a deep gash along my left cheek, and walks out. On Yahoo News, a Russian Philosopher of the Neo-Realist School predicts that the world will crash very soon. He gets arrested for shoplifting. The mannequin in my bed sits up, keeps a code of silence. I kiss her hard breasts and imagine the hard lumps under my mother’s skin, the pillows as soft as her sobs when I wasn’t looking, when she thought I had disappeared.
MUTANT MANNEQUIN ENVY: DON’T BREAK THIS HEART The robbery occurred shortly before the sky became an over-sized negligee wrapping around, sometimes exposing, our deepest suspicions. Approximately 10,000 dollars worth of wedding dresses, jewellery, and see-through evening gowns were stolen. My first assumption: The leader of this pack of thieves was raised by a mother whose face he could barely see or who was mute. Towards the back of the shop, two mannequins lay facing each other, arms overlapping, forehead to nose. The mannequin I labeled Sofia Low-Heel was missing a left foot. Her partner was severed at the hips. I told the crew not to leave any fingerprints along the abdomen, the rib area, the ideal of face. At least two other detectives were bedazzled or befuddled. My partner, Elmer B. Loy, shook his head then stated he should have stayed in a small town. At the crime lab, I took hundreds of photos of Sophia SoftToe (I changed her family name) and Edward Eerie-Eye, at various inclinations of Connect. I posted them on Facebook. Within a week, I received over a hundred confessions.
MUTANT MANNEQUIN ENVY: MODELS OF SALVATION COME IN ALL SIZES If I could freeze you in a sideways dimension, you’d be a mannequin. No longer would I suffer from a sense of vertigo at losing you down elevator shafts, up escalators during a mad rush at a Macy’s bargain. There would be no sex and false afterglow, when one of us might have a change of heart. After waking up, I could count on your durability—you’d still be sitting on the living room sofa where I placed you last night. You might resemble a Valeria Lukyanova or a Myrna Loy, smooth face stuck in a half-tilt, a body that is all-ghost, the best of the clones staring out from rain-streaked windows. I could place you across from me at the breakfast table and we wouldn’t have to say a word. In the eggshell-thin silence, in your blue stony eyes that do not reflect, I’d convince myself that you’d still need me, that you’re no longer that forgetful someone, facing away from mirrors, causing me to crack.
SIGN OFF: 1984 After the extra-innings Angels game from Anaheim, without warning four black-hooded horsemen on galloping black stallions filled the screen. The skeleton rider led, swinging his scythe through a rooted, panicked crowd that fell in vast swaths like wheat. Hooves echoed, the film crackling in scratchy black and white, recovered footage from some old catastrophe.
number 666, his name, encoded. Hammer and Sickle are the Great Whore’s sign, her banner blood-red with the vitals of martyred Saints. After untold carnage, Satan’s forces suffer destruction, the dead will rise, the Lamb rule from His Earthly throne.” He paused, closed his lids to take a breath, hesitant, unnerved by what came next. “Only 144,000 righteous souls will be saved . . .”
A man in a suit appeared, standing in an empty children’s classroom. He held a pointer, beside a coloured globe and an unrolled map on the wall. Precise, scientific, he explained how very soon the world would end, in earthquakes, eruptions, hail, and fiery rain. First plague would come, then famine, before the locusts and the deluge of awful frogs. He gestured to the blackboard, to the word APOCALYPSE printed in red, large perfect letters, and underneath, in white, the numbers 777. “Seven angels, seven trumps, seven seals—” He frowned with thought, then swiveled like a busy general, back to the map: “The final battle is joined at Armageddon, on the plain of Megiddo north of Jerusalem, where the Russian hordes and American armies clash. Hath not our own Commander and Chief of these United States prophesied the USSR is the Evil Empire?” He tapped sharply, three times with his pointer, so the paper map shivered. “Near Golgotha, Place of the Skull, in the shadow of the Cross, on ground of Adam’s bones, bed of Eve’s Sin below the Serpent’s branch, the Beast will be defeated. His forehead wears a mark, the
In curly, blonde toupee, pink shirt, and gold and silver tie, his vest protruding in a grey quarter moon, he laid aside his pointer smartly, beside the lectern’s black, thick Bible that weighed a ton, then turned to the camera slowly, with shining eyes. “No man knoweth the day or the hour, only the Father knoweth. But I say, can this be far off, is it far rather than near? ‘Like a thief in the night He will come,’ scripture says. Be vigilant, my friends, my brethren,” he finished, menacingly, smiling with compassion and concern. “Don’t sleep when the Master tries to wake your house.” Abruptly the TV buzzed with angry snow, the signal broken, Channel 6 gone off the air, maybe the War begun at last. The day before, Reagan had joked through an open mike: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” In the screen’s vacant, ghostly light, I reached for the last cigarette, nervous with apprehension for the End of Time all the good were praying for. 17
HEADING TO DOVER
It’s not customary, this northeast wind. It brings in cold pinpricks of drizzle, a permeating grey, and a novel olfactory signature. As I climb the stairs to the commuter rail platform, my nose gets rugosa roses, but then it’s all downhill. Rancid decaying grasses. Discarded phony hazelnut coffee. Diesel exhaust with cloying drier sheets. Cigarette smoke. I swear I will rip out my nostrils if ersatz butter is next.
“I lost my little pal. I had him for fourteen years. I buried him in a wood coffin in a corner of the garden. It’s tough.” My barber’s dog has died. From the shrine in the shop corner he picks up a five-by-seven and explains the grave to me: flowers, marble plaque, half a dozen solar lawn lights, solar butterflies, Virgin Mary. I say, “So many years; it’s hard. He’s like family.” The man pauses. “No, I trusted him.”
CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT by
d r a n w n i o HW
Chatting, they come to the church in groups of two or more, dressed as if for a prayer service. Mostly grey haired or balding, a few have those multi-clawed canes that do not rock or skid, giving a false sense of stability, an occasional wheeled walker with basket at the knees slides along the brick path as the shuffling music lover stumbles it up the two steps to the ornate double door beyond which will begin the Haydn, the Mozart, the Faure. For this crowd, no too modern dissonance to upset expectations from the past even though the players are young and earnest. Not long out of some prestigious conservatory, they need the gig. Look, there is even a frail man tugging a wheeled oxygen tank so that he can breathe in the music flowing from strings and piano as he sits tied by plastic tubes from tank to nostrils and nods, fighting the musicâ€™s encouragement to nap. A scattering of middle-aged sons or daughters are there to hold the elbow or grasp the arm of aged parent. Music fills the church, bouncing back from the nave and the bright glass bits of the religious windows. There will be a reception later, with food and drink in the Parish Hall. What a lovely afternoon, the aged will say, having forgotten for a few hours the mortality of the flesh in the presence of the eternal music as well as the donated food from the kitchens of middle-aged volunteers. 20
LOOK, HONEY by STAR by
Barry W. North
for Craig Ford
I am tall and lanky but with training and determination, and with the help of my brother, whose number I wear as a sign of respect and continuity, I have developed strong legs, which can propel a soccer ball with high velocity and pinpoint accuracy toward the goal if that is what I desire. But when I am in my groove, I seem to have a panoramic view of the field and to be at the epicenter of a vortex, inside of which every player is attached to me by my internal radar, and like a maestro conducting his own original music, using every instrument at his disposal, I pass the ball with finesse or force, as the situation dictates, to move it down the field. My greatest joy is seeing my teammates score, knowing that I had a hand in it. They call me star. I hear love.
THE MAN WITH ONE LEG by
I saw a man today with one leg. He was wearing a T-shirt that read: “I Lost It In Vietnam.” Perhaps he was tired of the question, or weary of telling a story he imagined no one really wanted to hear. Maybe he wasn’t referring to his leg at all. Maybe he meant his lost dreams, innocence, or faith. Maybe it described his reaction that lonely night in the Army hospital When his hand wandered down to the Nothingness that once was a leg. I wanted to tell him I was there too, but all I could do was nod.
Barry W. North
You would be proud. I carried in the wood and built the fire all by myself, and now I am standing by the window, looking out at what you would call a New England sky. ‘The snow is coming. It is a done deal,’ I can hear you say as you put your arms around my waist, and I try to lean back into you, wanting to hear you tell me one more time to think of the poetry and romance it will inspire.
BAD MEN by
Love. You left me tears of memories; promises of goodness and happiness. And now white pages. Nothing but blank pages. And I find in my sleep pieces of stories that remain untold, and I tell and retell them in my sleep as I toss, drift within myself and away from all this— The present: A studio apartment. A small kitchen with dripping tap. A pile of bowls in the sink. The oats I eat clog the drain. My black hair here and there on white tiles. A towel hung on a knob. A computer with a tireless screensaver; fireworks exploding in varicolor. The sky outside is plain white. Unscratched. It smells of snow. Later I will step out. The cold will awaken me fully. Still, those images of imagined lives with you will remain. You at my side. You before me at a table with candlelight. You onto me in bed. And your eyes, grey as they were, wandered the room, the space of our existence— seemed always too small, too tight, too predictable. You’d seen in my eyes what it means to be loved, cherished, revered. To live hand to mouth from your mouth. Then you wished to know what it is to be scorned, humiliated, abused? To be treated as child, guided firmly, as a long line of women have before. Still are. Can I blame myself for this? For losing you?
Linda G. Hatton
ELIHU’S MEDITATION ON QUESTIONS UNANSWERED by
I sit across the table from you As your tea cools And your biscuit remains untouched It will become stale and crumble If I wait long enough And I am prepared to wait
She is warm caramel coating your tongue, dawn at the end of day, and hope born of promises. Cherry blossom confetti, crushed cotton sheets, and the expectation of what hides beneath. She is the cooling precursor of a summer storm, an unexpected brush with velvet, and relief from a drought thought unbreakable. The static fall of radiowaves tuning, rain dancing on a tin roof, and forever in a single breath. The crystalline break of a brûlée skin, the arboraceous prickle of aftershave, and the lingering memory of a kiss upon waking. She is the past and the present and the future, stepping from the train together, scarlet embossing on the concrete landscape. More real in the condensation of warm breath than you dared believe possible on a lonely platform. She reaches for you, hair caught in the wind, as you are caught in her.
Suffering’s shroud covers your face Offering no warmth, no protection or comfort And I watch the pallor drain while lamentations echo I see your shrunken shoulders Carrying a weight that mutes your voice And I understand wounds create your silence Fresh blood seeps and runs like rain down a window Pools slowly and congeals And I offer you a tissue to wipe the blood You sip your tepid tea and mouth silences Because words have failed And I have no meaning to give your words In this beautiful agony When all you want is an answer And I have only a question Interminable eternity parades you in a carousel With discordant piped music as a soundtrack And I will continue to ride alongside you When the weight breaks your bones I will carry you, feed you, slake your thirst And I will maintain vigil with thought’s candle I sit across the table from you I know your suffering And I know how to love
Walking on bitumen with faces inhuman, faded advertising lights moving, lamps flashing and flickering, fleeting car headlights reflecting at angles casting features in previously unimagined combinations of colours. Bickering in foreign languages rising out of mouths and brains and eyes and closely shaved heads. Words whispered with lips close to necks with arms hinting at violence draped around shoulders. Girls with naked pale legs laugh at jokes they will forget that night while laying on their back with eyelids pushing together involuntarily.
An endless reverberation acted-out, playing-out, spread over all outside events and internal tangles brought along in unison no matter where the body ends up, this time. Issue of area, issued machine of skin and all to accompany, and means to protect what living still occurs intact, in a new place, within a newborn individual’s age. All the years of it anyway to come to grips, handle or manipulate it, too late. A tantrum of indecision taken and turned into a lifestyle, even when staying put. No end to reinvention yet always so similar the mold, so common a product. And what you may produce. What’s made of all brought with, the same every time and whichever century it is in life you’ve entered, roamed around in, eventually becoming trampled by, and mashed back to earth. Caravan of impulses, disease of inquiry, and all aside from the growth of need of nothing more than what shared, accumulating, signals signs symptoms, of innocent actual aging all like animals subscribe to, are addicts of, in a sense loving every grating moment of it.
Vance Mikin -Laurie
Music leaks out of nightclubs and spills across the pavement. Trams rattle past. Men run down stairs under raining stars for a cigarette, smoke seeping from their mouths into the black sky. Stinging needles run into my feet through wet socks. This is where the city drinks; alcohol dispersed in small glasses in courtyards until the doors close and crowds scatter, leaving streets deserted within thirty minutes. I gauge passers-by by their eyes and all I can see is a lust for power. I can’t stop imagining myself in confrontations with the men walking past, in situations where a man hits his girlfriend and I intervene and knock him to the ground. I keep having these drawn out fantasies with me cast as the hero until I realize I am talking to myself out loud and gesturing at nothing. The coloured lights and signs of the bars soon give way to soft street lights and glittering tram tracks. It rains against a small bluestone fence overgrown with weeds, sprouting flowers from an old letterbox. It rains against all kinds of architecture reflecting different ratios of fear and love. The imagined warmth of houses taunts me in the cold. Darkened top floor windows and a hope in my mind that the lights will turn on and a girl will come into view and stand there naked. I see the curves of her neck and the recesses of her body in subtle shadow and feel my cold hands warmed against her hips. Her eyes are something from a memory, when we first met and I stared for too long until she looked away. I keep walking, and only the street lights shine in the fog.
Threaded, coarse wound of you, and what’s thought or even awkwardly, incorrectly referred to by self and others, friend and hated enemy whether unknown yet or known quite well, as shape you’ve taken, name having been given. What significant sound turns your tender ear, or what would identify in conversation, or plot against or in favor and defense of, when the referenced thing itself is out of the room, the mentioned beast and innocent angel off seeing to something, speaking words to man or woman, out loud, merely thought, or shown as intent by any number of appropriate or innocuously violent or inconsiderate actions. Woven together, winded to gasping, doubtless exhausted as one arrow-maimed herd-creature upon the other, stacked dead into a sack. If not for this body, I’d be able to… If not for these preoccupations, I’d be able to… As muscles in the lungs glide across their opposites while breaths are drawn in. As a mutual goal brings into alliance otherwise adversaries. Agitate to a point of instability, or roughen to pain of coughing, caught the same in arguably necessary operations. As much limitless horror as life-affirming happiness. As much livid dread as light-drenched harmony. As, ached-over, prayed-over, sprawled-out and wore-thin and winning, losing, winning, losing.
Gilmore Tamny ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by
It is dark, and I feel the pressure, the pressure in my bowels. These hallways don’t seem to end. There is a bathroom In the distance—and this is a university, though not my college. Torches light the way. At last I turn to a door, a door shaped like an elephant. I turn the brass trunk and enter. Before me is all I’ll ever need, rows and rows of shining porcelain. An auditorium of the most beautiful toilets in the world. It is a colosseum, a theater, for anyone who doesn’t mind being entertained with their pants down. I sit and release in luxury...until people file in. These stalls only come up to the waist. My jacket is covering my legs but everyone can see. I don’t care until a male sits in the stall next to me. Apparently this isn’t segregated. I can’t stand, and I can’t wipe without risking voyeurism. Oops. This is a classroom. The chemistry professor steps onto the stage, and the toilets are filled with people who are not using them. “Class will be canceled for the next few weeks,” he says, “because someone,” he looks at the guy next to me, “blew up all the test tubes.” I don’t see any sinks. He winks at me. And I am filthy. It occurs to me that I’m dreaming, and that I very well may have left my actual bed a gift. In that case, what’s the point of hiding it anymore? I conjure my toilet paper and do my business. Nobody notices, because I am now an elephant. 27
THE WOMB by
Leila A. Fortier
He could have been my son, I kept thinking. All nations swam inside the perplexed innocence of his eyes—wide as the world; sweet as a newborn. He stole away within the belly of a boat like a womb, curled like a fetus. I wondered if he wished the boat was the arms of his mother. His depleted surrender bleeding unto the ground and gurney; the exposed skin of a child bearing no bomb or weaponry. A mother’s son: the fruit of her loins, now anthem of his mother’s agony. He could have been my son, I kept thinking. I convinced myself he was utterly lost and knows not the pain he has caused. His soul must be injured or misplaced, I insisted. A mother does not give birth to the soulless. I kept thinking of his mother—as if within her resides the answer. As if she alone possesses all powers of perception. As if every failure and success of her creation is her responsibility alone—beyond the womb and even after separation. I guess I want to believe that we are that powerful—and I am terrified to consider that we are not. This is a woman’s weight and burden. This is the incomprehensible pain of every mother: 28
to lose a child to evil or death. Evil is a form of death and death is a form of evil. Just because one breathes does not mean they are not the same. A mother’s song of lament wails from the prison of her unconditional love. She would crucify herself for the sins of her offspring in atonement for innocents taken. He could have been my son, I kept thinking. If only I could have wrapped that boy up and sheltered him before tragedy. Cradle him as my own—as if I could have changed the course of history. As if God bestowed divination within each mother’s arms to exorcise demons and resurrect the dead with her healing. She cradles all children living and lost. She knows there is more to each story that only she can understand. The cries of humanity never leave her womb. The exasperation of hope never leaves the refuge of her eyes—even when her arms are empty. We ask: What “angel” could do such a thing? Need we be reminded that even Lucifer fell from heaven? Was he not the most loved? And when does love no longer suffice? Say not this can happen. Say not that we are not powerful—as a world, as a nation, as a people—if not women and mothers alone. He could have been my son, I kept thinking. Woman: The giver of life who bears all cost for her creations. When her hands fail and she finds no foothold upon the hearth of God’s mercy—she alone will bear the responsibility. What she cannot recreate she will carry in infinite sorrow—a purgatory of unanswered questions swimming in the cancer of her womb.
I AM IN LOVE WITH DOUBT He’s exactly my type: storm-eyed and steel-jawed, and he wears November like cologne—fresh snow, smoke musk and cold. I love his laugh, but can never remember what it sounds like. When we are out, he squeezes my hand so tight my fingers turn red, then pale, then numb. Our friends stare, but say nothing. Every night, he binds me to him, seeds my throat with kisses, and breathes into my ear, “You belong to me.” Every night, I carve a hollow out of my pillow, nestle my face inside, and whisper, “Yes.”
e l y o l i C m E Rose
IN PRAISE OF FAILURE
When you are splayed spread-eagle on the wet sidewalk, or the prickly brown grass behind your father’s house, or the puce shag carpeting in your boss’s office, when your tailbone is bruised, your eardrums punched out or pealing, your ego concussed, split-lipped, stitched up,
when you stare up at a sky whirled with secondhand starlight, or rolling with clouds, fat as growling piñatas, or sultry with the brunt-leaves musk of midnight in September, remember, please, that failure is not the snarling force that knocked you down, but the dirt that scrapes between the broken fingernails of your psyche as you push yourself up. 29
JACARANDA STREETS Anyone who saw us driving home along Jacaranda streets would have known I’d lost her. It’s just as well, as anyway the words to tell fought to stay within me, as you had, I know. In the coffee shop days later a survivor tells me her story and I, warring with my verbs again wonder why she hasn’t seen the raw cuts screaming I miscarried her from my brow.
THE FRAME She put the black origami swan on the twenty dollar retro desk she’d bought from the salvos. Felt like it would draw her there to write in the morning light with the view of the garden but the walking frame with wheels left near the picture window stole the Chinese Tallow canvas from its frame and the birds singing outside and the silent swan couldn’t put it back.
CRUSH On his head he wore a handkerchief tied at each of its four corners and above his working shadow, he bent tipping golden grapes from dip tins, spreading them on netted wire, to dry under sun lighting his sweat-wetted hair and sixteen-year-old skin this day held taut in blue singlet bought with his last sugar cane pay in Brisbane. The blocky’s daughter, a gingham girl, sandalled, freckled, twelve years old and delivering lunch with billy tea gazed up at sweat-sheened shoulders seesawing above boots dusted and slow dancing Sicilian ankles along the racks and felt the death dark centres of her hazel eyes expand.
e s i l uJ Brigg 31
Linda G. Hatton
TOTAL IMMERSION by
AND EROS SHRUGS by
Remember How assorted paints Drowned in that fishless bowl On the windowsill Slid liberated off the brushes And joined Bled together like we used to Fastened—Fused Melting into the last sunset That we watched on each other’s shoulders Recall When our final encounter Wrapped itself In a linen sheet hideaway Wrote invisible On the white pillow pages Your smell still lingers When I lay my head down on them Slides down my cheek Like some ghost of The backs of your fingers Hips ride confident half circles Swaying side to side For once intrepid Down the road Into a dusk of one’s own Not today, darling Not tonight, and not next week either The muse grows tired And Eros shrugs Because he’s back to work To find another And because Atlas Has finally given his own shoulders The evening off
Our clapboard country church had no baptistery but we had grown too nice to duck our converts in the creek so I was born again in a borrowed tank, tried to squeeze my big country foot into that fragile city slipper. My nine-year-old lost soul had sweated guilt that hot revival week—all nails and blood and all my fault— while I squirmed on a bare oak pew, but county seat bricks and velvet curtains made me skittish as a field mouse godmothered into service as an arch-necked carriage horse. To descend those steps in my frilliest dress, wade breast deep into an oversized tub, surrender to a Prince Charismatic, let him lay me in the water, hold my nose like I didn’t know how to hold my breath and dive—he raised me up into the air and I let go the giggle I thought was going to damn me.
FES MEDINA by
Leathery faced old men stand sipping mint tea, women in headscarves examine bruised fruit and youth in the colours of Barcelona, Chelsea, Milan run through this labyrinth of 9000 streets. A city within a city where Arab and African meet. Every cliché in the book; the east and the west the ancient and the modern. I feel disconnected Like the severed camel’s head in the butcher’s window.
NOT WHERE HE EXPECTED He had expected it to happen in his chest. He knew from years of movies and music that love was located to the left of the breastbone. He knew that this love pump was a meaty, heavy organ, one that dripped on the floor and pulled at the elbow of the medical examiner when he took it from your cold, and sometimes mutilated, torso. He also knew it as a delicate machine. Despite the power of love, you could die from too much gravy, or from running too far too fast. He grasped the edge of his wife’s coffin and muttered, “It’s not where I expected.” “What, Dad?” Melody grasped his elbow a little tighter. This didn’t even seem like her father. He sighed. “It’s not in my chest. It’s more . . . more in my stomach. I feel . . . nervous. Does that make any sense?” She was briefly silent, and then said, “I don’t know.” She was starting feel more of his weight. He looked green, but he was still dry-eyed. “Are you going to be sick?” “I don’t feel like a man.” “What, Dad?” “This is . . . it’s unmanning. Like testicle cancer, or explosive diarrhea. I just feel . . . sick.” She knew that her father loved her mother. She had thought that his heart had shattered 34
into millions of pieces when she had died. But instead of the jagged, cutting shards she had imagined, she was now picturing neat, artificial cubes, like safety glass. She had once been in a car accident when her windshield had been blown back into the car. The initial shock had been overwhelming, like a blizzard inside her body. But instead of being followed by a thaw and then a summer full of gouts of crimson and scorching cuts, she had been just covered in perfect little room temperature cubes. She had not shed one drop of blood, though she had found glass hours later in her hair, days later in her pockets, months later in the tight spots in her car. She still kept several pieces in the cup holder. He said, “I don’t even feel sad right now. Do you feel sad?” She thought about it and decided that she felt like she had dropped one of her wine glasses and had cut herself quite badly. It hurt, and she was a bit frightened, but she would still finish picking up the pieces before bandaging the cut. “Of course I’m sad, Dad. You’re . . . not?” He watched his college-aged grandchildren. They sat in a loose circle across the room, laughing quietly and then looking around guiltily. He thought that their grief would ooze out of them over time, like warm milk from a cracked mug. His stomach turned over again. “I don’t think so. Well, yes. It’s just . . . it’s not where I expected.”
I think it is a mistake to call it “running-away” people who run are also acting on an impulse to arrive somewhere, to find something, the same way a French horn sounds simultaneously like a sendoff and an invitation. 35
HIDING PLACES by
Some days, I look within the book of myself onto the pages I have filled, and sigh. The folds of light and dark portray scenes, some simple, and others horrific. I sit still now. I have no need to wander. Today, I find the child, who rode a battered bike miles to hide within the library. sister runs behind me— a faded Kodak The building was brick, shaped in the round. I see it still: I see its trim, a heavy lacquered bead-board of white; the windows, broad and high; the door that opens with the depression of a brass lever. I can smell the books and the lavender perfume of the petite, round-shouldered librarian. There is so much colour, and light. The rolling ladders rumbled as I move them to climb, reaching for the jewel-coloured books. There were many of us there most Saturday mornings, girls in hiding. I never thought to wonder why. In pigtails, ponytails, and raucous curls: we would sit upon the floor within the stacks, our own piles of ‘geta-ways’ in front of us. I loved Nancy Drew. I imagined her leading the boys into an attic, where blueblack chests were piled high to solve The Mystery of the Missing Child. an open diary lays beneath her hand— pressed violets There were no chests in my house, no place to hide from the screams. It’s horrid to be a blank-paged book in waiting. Outside and inside, there was just fear. Who would get me? What would they do? I can almost taste the hair of my ponytail. Where did you hide? Do you hide there still?
A suitcase sprung open on the floor, a basket of ivory cards with bells, a week-old bouquet in water. Afternoon light leans across the bedroom. He wants her to pick first. She tries the bed, restless and testing both sides. Claiming one, she drags her pillow over, and he comes after, taking his new-designated place. But in the quiet, they abandon halves, finding the middle where the mattress slopes, and the margins become cool and crisp. He sleeps, sighing behind her ear, and holding him, she watches outside, watches a shred of birch bark swing in the wind, ripping away from the trunk then curling around it again and again and again. She shuts her eyes and later when she wakes and stares downward she doesn’t know without moving whose arm is draped over her stomach, if it’s his constellation of freckles, or hers, or theirs.
The man’s jacket was split up the back like beetle wings. One of the cuff buttons had been reattached with a different colour thread. The concern in that gesture conjured up a wife with hair like dandelion pollen. “Linus,” I said, sidling up from behind to acclimate him to my voice, “we have an appointment.” There had to be truth in every lie, or the corpses could tell. Whenever they ran, Mulligan’s Mortuary called me and I brought them back. Linus stared ahead, his face a compromise between wax and flesh, his eyebrows villainous. Mulligan moonlighted in the theater. His rouge applications bordered on flamboyance. The rain had not let up since I arrived at the shocked family’s apartment, explained myself, and been shown into their daughter’s room where Linus decided to park himself the day of his burial. The smell of an exercised corpse was bad enough. Add the rain, and, well, the funeral was not for an hour yet. We had time. Linus said, “I hope the rain doesn’t make us late this morning.” I heard mourning. I sat down but kept some mattress between us. The shrinks claimed a living touch feels as creepy to a corpse as the touch of death does to us. Too much lost in translation.
NIGHT TIME by
I need your face between my hands to keep the night at bay. I swear I could stop the sunset, if I just borrowed your lips; just a taste, just a moment, I promise, I wonâ€™t steal them for long. Long enough to stun the sky, as I stare into the unnamed constellations that hide inside your eyes, the freckles on your iris that could be swans or fishtails, or the shape of your body when it wraps around mine.
BINGE, CIRCA 1881
Order, reason, time—all gone.
Effie has taken his hand, or he has taken her hand.
Jaw chiseled and strong. Mouth wide open; a smile flashing blindingly white teeth. Eyes displaying chronicled accomplishment. Hair black and full. Tan skin conceals athletic muscles and bones. The AC pumping and humming as hard as it can, keeping him cool.
She has followed him up the hill, or he has followed her. He has tongued either her neck or those ropy tendons on the underside of wrist. Neither. Both. He has or has not considered licking her ankle bone. She offers him another drink from his own flask. Go ahead, Isaac. After all, you’re still upright. No. Effie’s a teetotaler, like her father. He must have offered himself the drink. Just go ahead, Isaac. After all, you’re still upright. “Will you be drunk forever, Isaac?” She takes her hand away, if she ever gave it to him in the first place. “Maybe.” Or maybe not. It’s the only time he’s ever been drunk, or the third time. Or the eighth. However long it’s been since the wedding. He checks with Effie. “Julia got married?”
I step out of the car and into a new environment surrounded by Popsicle sticks adorning backpacks. He looks at me, “Well, this is it. I’m always here for you. Good luck in college.” He was never prying or probing. Always helping and holding. He says, “I love you, son.” I wanted to tell him I loved him. I wanted to thank him for everything that he had done for me. I swallowed my words as I assured myself I could tell him that some other time. I nodded and shut the door. Gone. Here.
“Of course she did.” “When?” “Don’t be stupid, Isaac.” Three nights ago. Four? Six.
Jaw slacked. Mouth propped open. Blood stained teeth from dry lips. One eye shut. One half open. Grey, thinning hair wildly glued to his head. Low on platelets, the skin can barely hold the blood. The breathing apparatus pumping and whining as hard as it can, keeping him alive. Mechanical limbs extend themselves. Prying and probing. Helping and holding.
“Don’t ever tell me when.” “Idiot.” He may or may not now imagine Effie is her sister Julia, or ask her to pretend she is. Allow her to, maybe at her own suggestion. He may confess how when he sleeps Julia leaks from his lips and his dreams and the corners of his eyes. How she always will. He may not use her sister’s name at all, or say it once, or many times, whispered. Effie may not slap him. Effie may bite. The marks could be from anybody’s teeth, if they’re even really there.
Popsicle sticks adorning white gowns hurriedly flood the room. Up, down. Up, down. Over and over again. Prying and probing. Helping and holding. Words from the doctor’s mouth. Words from my mother’s. White gowns exit and disperse. Tears flow onto the frail form of my father. No more whining, no more pumping. No more prying, no more probing. No more helping. Just holding. “Dad, I—” Gone.
SCARLET For Mary Loa Jimenez
Leila A. Fortier
Artist studio: My wrist snapped the brush—scarlet shrieked across the canvas. She watched my creation unfold spontaneously. Hair fixed into a tight bun; she held her handbag in her lap like a baby. She claimed she was an ordinary woman with no passions or abilities. I paused and raised my brow to her; brush still in hand. Even the paint was silent. “Seriously…nothing,” she insisted. That part of her died the day police delivered Putters in a body bag. The resilience of her faith was the last thing standing as her back broke beneath the weight of the cross. Flashback eight long years: Sixty-eight days of search and desperation. How she clawed the earth for relics of her daughter and stolen joy. Still—her face was a lantern of unfathomable grace in the agony of waiting. Flashforward eight short years: A murderer is set free. Putters’ shortchanged life deemed paid in full. There is a special place in hell… “This must be where God steps in,” I quipped…as if it were a question. What kind of creation could rise from all of this? I glared at the useless instrument of my brush. I wanted to fill the anguish of her abscesses. Smooth over her emotional scars. Shine her like a silver spoon and transform her into a moon without cavity. I would paint her new worlds, a new womb, and the perfect happy ending. I would put the brushes in her hands, and all colours would bow before her. I would bring her these gifts the way that wise men brought gifts to Jesus. But I am only wise enough to know that I cannot fill her abscesses…and it is no wonder why she was given the name, Mary. My wrist snapped the brush—scarlet shrieked across the canvas.
. M n e e y l l l l o C Farre 40
Gaunt, made-up, wobbling in heels too big for tiny feet, heels that sparkle and clack against cold concrete as wind whips her teased hair like a lasso roping a steer
as snow binds to tight jeans like the shackles she wore on the ship to her Shangri La as streetlight catches a gleam in her eyes, a glimpse as she stares into tonight her fifteenth birthday.
It’s springtime again, and my daughter rolls on the floor, jabbering. It’s hot and being human is still hard. The years dividing moments can’t touch this. Not at all.
Susan Carter Morgan
a wooden boat rests on neglected weeds a pond sleeps, a wife drifts unmoored
Linda G. Hatton
UNDER YOU OVER THE BRIDGE by
Daniel W. Thompson
The sun rising, painting the city in orange, and you slug along because of the weight. Overweight. Over the bridge. Instead of one crease behind your knees, the aqua sweatpants fold like stitch work, caught in the squeezing flesh. And the matching aqua sweatshirt, some sizes too small, hanging over your sides like, well, saddlebags. You have saddlebags. You are cold. I can see the back of your neck, its own shade of blue, a cold, bruised shade. And the mussed hair—damp. You slept outside last night. The hair frosted over, then melted as the heat drew from the labors of walking across this bridge. And the melting frost sparkles like glitter against your bruised neck and dots the collar of the sweatshirt. A melting, sparkling ice sculpture. You take one step for every ten I would take. I would run. I would leap from the unobstructed winds. Malicious, indiscriminate winds. But you shove forward in due time, and I drive by at 7:22 a.m. I drive by and the temperature in my car reads seventy-four degrees. Outside, twenty-eight degrees. Outside where you are, all alone, watching me pass. And it saddens you that I care at all. I reach work and remain in my car, heavy, slow, vivid, unable to leave my seventy-four degrees. Seventy-three. Seventy-two. Seventy-one. It’s the weight. I’m under the weight of you over the bridge. 43
Published on Jul 18, 2014